I usually adore the ridiculously long and intricate profiles in the New Yorker, but this week, in the magazine’s annual food issue, Lauren Collins’ profile of Spotted Pig chef April Bloomfield left me a little irritated.
To kick things off, they photograph her with her head poking through a platter on a table. I know the New Yorker is still relatively new to this whole photography thing, but this is such a cliched concept that doesn’t in any way fit with the story. Bloomfield isn’t a controversial chef who is under constant attacked by the media or others in the restaurant industry. The story doesn’t focus on her having enemies who want to serve her head on a platter. Instead, she’s depicted as an average person who happens to be passionate and ambitious when it comes to food.
The author goes out of her way to include Bloomfield’s text messages in the story, presumably to show how tech savvy she is. Or, through another lens, how she’s just a knife-wielding version of all those shallow, text-addicted tweenie bops who overuses exclamation points and doesn’t know any other exclamatory words to describe food other than “yum”:
In a field of divos, Bloomfield is humble, praising her competitors and punctuating her correspondence with emoticons and “x”s and “o”s. I once asked what dish I might cook for a visiting friend, and she replied with a two-hundred-and-twenty-one-word text message. “How about a roasted pumpkin and pheasant salad with pomegranates parmesan and balsamic!” she began. “Yum so full of flavor and you can do everything ahead!”
People love to ask Bloomfield what it feels like to be one of the few famous female chefs, but her choice of vocation was more a practicality than a political statement. “I don’t think of being a woman in an industry of men,” she told me. “I didn’t walk into the kitchen and go, ‘Ooh, I’m a girl!’ I didn’t get into my chosen profession. I wanted to be good at something.” Still, I did hear her telling her friend Jessica Boncutter, the chef and owner of Bar Jules, in San Francisco, how pleased she was that some of the women in her kitchen were “wiping the floor” with their male counterparts.
Cooks approached [Bloomfield] and wordlessly presented their dishes, like ring bearers at the altar.
[Business partner Ken] Friedman and Bloomfield make an odd but symbiotic professional couple. By taking care of all the extraneous business that comes with running a popular restaurant—the kooky waiters, the angry proctologists, the celebrities, the press—Friedman spares Bloomfield distraction and inoculates her against restaurant-world bitchery. He keeps her pure. She keeps him honest.“I want something kind of punk rock,” Friedman told him. “I don’t want another Italian-American guy who used to work for you. Let’s get a girl, maybe, or, like, a British chef. I want something the press is going to get a hold of.” “Quit thinking about marketing,” Batali said. “Just get the best chef.” [ed note: Go Mario!]
[Momofuku chef/owner David] Chang, still full of energy, grabbed her wrists, handcuffing her to the banquette. She turned to Friedman with an entreating look. “Ken, I want to go home so I can do my job in the morning like the responsible citizen I am.” Friedman intervened. Bloomfield picked up her messenger bag and jumped into a taxi.